The Baptism of Jesus

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The baptism of Jesus was a turning point. For John, it was the point when his role as the “voice in the wilderness” reached its peak; from then on, his role would be diminished. It was a turning point for many of John’s followers, who, encouraged by their leader, turned to Jesus and followed him. It was a turning point for Jesus. It marked the beginning of his life as the “Suffering Servant.”

My own baptism was also a turning point. In 1968, with Vatican ll just starting to be implemented, there wasn’t yet a well- formed educational process for adult converts. My instruction was minimal. I showed up early for Mass a few weeks later and was duly sprinkled in a conditional baptism while my (non-Catholic) parents and Godmother looked on. That was it. There was no prolonged learning experience, no elaborate ceremony, no welcoming by the church community. Yet I still felt the power of God’s love and the intensity of commitment to His will. As a convert to Catholicism, I began to ask myself, just what did I turn away from, and more important, what was it that I was turning towards? I decided that I was turning away from ignorance and towards a better understanding of how I could serve my new-found Lord.

Baptism doesn’t need to be an occasion for loud “Amens” and “Alleluias” or shouting in the streets, a point I’ve always appreciated, but it should be recognized by parents and community for the gigantic step it is in a person’s life. This sacrament is an aligning of oneself with God, and a readiness to be accepted as a child of God. Christ refers to it as a fulfillment of righteousness. In the Old Testament righteousness meant an adherence to the covenant. In the New Testament, it’s the gift of a restored relationship with God. So for Christ, his baptism was not a redemption, but rather a public statement that God was ever faithful to His holy people. At the same time, it opened the doors for our baptism to become that cleansing of sin, so necessary to regaining a rightful relationship with our heavenly father and allowing us to become adopted children of God.

When I was baptized I didn’t see a dove descending from heaven, and I didn’t hear the words “This is my daughter with who I am well pleased,” but I am assured that God proclaims me to be His beloved. That’s not a relationship to enter into lightly. Parents of newly baptized infants are called to follow up with the necessary education. Children need to not only learn what being a Christian is about, they also need to continue to respond to God’s calling. For adults, there is a need for deeper learning as well as a readiness and a burning desire to make such a commitment. And for the church members, an equal level of commitment is called for. We need to practice our own commitment every day. We need to encourage our fallen away members to return home. We need to welcome the marginalized back into the fold. And we need to celebrate the new life of every person. Being an adopted member of God’s family isn’t a one shot ordeal. It’s life changing and involves acting on that commitment, and continuing to learn for the rest of one’s life.

                                                                                                                                       Linda Crowley